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07/18/2019

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Amanda

As I said earlier, being negative is something to avoid (i.e. criticizing students, other teaching styles, etc.)

Being short is so important, one to 1.5 pages.

Sounding arrogant, i.e. like you have figured out this special teaching method that solves a problem that has existed for decades and all philosophy teachers have handled wrong.

I think simply being dry and hard to read is a common mistake. It is impossible to over emphasize that search committee members are human beings with human flaws, and so boring matters. Try to think, "If I had just read 83 teaching statements and was tired, hungry, and struggling to keep my eyes open, would these opening sentences grab my attention?"

Charles Perkins

One question I have, as someone who has not yet gone one the job market, or ever even read a philosophy teaching statement (having never served on a search committee) is what does a concrete example in a teaching statement look like? I guess I would like a concrete example of a concrete example. I can see how teaching statements might lend themselves to generality. Especially if someone is applying to a community college, or any other school that has a general humanities division with maybe only one other philosopher. How can you be concrete about how you teach without getting concrete about what you are teaching and risk alienating the committee members? Do have to sort of teach them through your statement?

Amanda

Hello Charles Perkins. Here are some examples:

(1)"The last few days of class are set-up like a philosophy conference, where students present their paper, and the presentation is followed by a Q and A session from the audience of their peers."

(2)"On essays I give each student exactly 5 comments. I have found this results in students who are both happy with concrete advice but also not overwhelmed or discouraged."

(3)"I distribute handouts to each student, and each handout has several moral claims that range from mildly controversial to highly controversial. Each student must write both a few sentences in support of each claim and also a few sentences challenging the claim. This is followed by small group discussions about the activity."

(4)"I have weekly quizzes on the reading, but quiz style varies from week to week. For example, quiz formats include, (1) simple multiple choice, (2) writing a two paragraph summary, and (3) having a brief one on one discussion with myself about their personal thoughts (while the rest of the class is engaged in a group activity).

I don't think any of the above examples required getting too concrete about what I was teaching, and most of them could apply to almost any type of philosophy and/or humanities course. I do agree it is important to not be controversial. So do not, for instance, ever explain your activity in a way that criticizes other teaching styles. And if you do anything far out of the norm, you should probably not mention these as your examples. (For instance, if you don't give traditional grades, or have some type of ethics assignment that would raise eyebrows, etc.)

It is also best to use examples like the ones above which can be applied to various class types (unless you are really aiming for a specific school and go through the trouble of coming up with examples that are a perfect fit for their type of classes. But this is unnecessary. Teaching examples do not need to be where you prove you are a good fit for the particular school, but they also should not *disprove* this.)

Marcus Arvan

Charles: Here's another example, "I typically end my courses with in-class presentations where students apply course material to real-life cases of their choice. This not only requires them to demonstrate proficiency with course material, but to see how philosophy is relevant to everyday life and world events. For example, I close Philosophy of Law by having students in groups of two use philosophical theories of what the law is, what the law ought to be, and legal procedure to 're-litigate' recent Supreme Court cases of their choice, with one student playing prosecutor and the other the defense. Similarly, in Morality of Warfare students use theories of just cause (jus ad bellum), just means (jus en bello), and justice in resolution (jus post bellum) to evaluate whether a historical war was justly waged and by whom."

Charles

Marcus and Amanda, Thank you so much!

anon

I am confused by part of Charles' query.

Is writing about what you teach in a teaching statement a bad thing?
As in specific texts, examples of assignment questions, etc?

If so, why?

Charles Perkins

When I wrote my question, I was thinking of the possibility of getting too far in the weeds with topics that might not be as interesting to people who aren’t in philosophy— or topics that people who aren’t in philosophy might have a hard time understanding. For example, if the best class I had ever taught were centered around the (possible) heterogeneity of mereological simples (which is a favorite topic of mine, so no shade here) I would worry about being specific while not alienating committee members. But I think Marcus and Amanda’s examples show how it can be done. I guess I wouldn’t worry about this if I could explain what I was teaching in detail briefly and then get to _how I taught it_ pretty immediately.

Marcus Arvan

Charles: exactly!

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